By: Rose Afriyie
Published September 30th, 2009
This September marked an important breakthrough in sexual health: an FDA panel recommended Gardasil, the HPV vaccine, for males ages nine through 26. Last semester, I wrote multiple columns about the fact that although men and women have equal chances of getting genital warts — a symptom of HPV — they don’t have equal access to testing or vaccinations. Accurate tests and vaccinations are available for women but not widely available for men. Being the equality advocate that I am, when I learned that the vaccines would now be recommended for both sexes, I started to do an Irish dance — yes, like the ones in the River Dance commercials that air at 5 a.m. — but halted mid-step.
It’s not my intent to do an about-face on this issue, but now that the vaccine is almost here I am totally conflicted. On one hand, men should take their sexual health more seriously because of how life-threatening health outcomes can affect them and, for heterosexuals, their female partners. The introduction of this vaccine gives men an incentive to invest in their sexual health. But there are drawbacks when considering the decision making of Merck, the makers of Gardasil, and the circumstances surrounding how money has been spent to advocate for the vaccine. So, allow me to interrupt the non-stop vaccine related content dedicated to the swine flu to tackle the business of Gardasil.
My beef with Gardasil is really a beef with the unethical practices of Merck, the pharmaceutical giant that currently has a monopoly over the HPV vaccine in the U.S. A report published in an Aug. 27 edition of Business Week reminded us of Merck’s decision in 2006 and 2007 to lobby lawmakers to make the vaccine mandatory in some states. To boot, the article notes that we still aren’t in the know about long-term effects of Gardasil.